Belmont High Fall Sports Wrap: Field Hockey, Girls’ Soccer, Volleyball, X-C

Photo: Senior Bridget Gray running onto the pitch in Franklin during Belmont High Girls’ Soccer’s first round MIAA Division 1 match against the Panthers

Field Hockey

After an exciting 1-0 win over Arlington in the first round of the MIAA Div. 1 playoff, Belmont High Field Hockey traveled to the cold and windswept hill country west of Worcester to take on fourth-ranked Wachusetts Regional.

But there wasn’t anything sweet in the Sweet 16 match against the Mountaineers. Despite trailing 2-0 at the half, the 13th-ranked Marauders were still in the game as they stepped up their midfield play in the second quarter. But minutes into the third quarter, a Belmont player was hit on the head by a rising, high stick resulting in the injured player being taken off the field via an ambulance. (The player is OK, as she was well enough to attend homecoming later in the week, albeit with three stitches on her forehead.)

A team member recalled,” We were so freaked out that all we wanted to do was pack up and go home.” The final 25 minutes was a proforma affair and the Marauders’ season ended in a 4-0 loss and an 11-6-3 record.

Despite all the drama of the last game, the team finished the season nearly doubling the six wins from 2021 while securing its first tournament victory since 2017. The team will bring back a substantial selection of high-impact players in 2023, said Jess Smith, who completed her 19th year as head coach.

“This team of multi-sport hardworking athletes surpassed how well I thought we’d do this year,” said Smith.

“They were a group of unselfish players who used speed, endurance, will, and aggression to get it done out there. They were led by a fabulous trio of captains [Layne Doherty, Devin Kelleher and Willa Sama] who kept things fun but goal oriented. They went into every game believing they could get it done. Eleven wins in a Middlesex season is phenomenal. I’ll miss this graduation class and I’m pumped for next year,” said Smith.

Girls’ Soccer

It’s tough enough for a new coach to take the reins of a successful program, but Belmont High Girls’ Soccer Head Coach Jemmy Cange would have to do it with an injury list that would make a physical therapist rich. Nearly half of the team’s projected starters and other past varsity players sat out the entire season or significant portions of 2022.

Despite an injury cloud that hung over the team, the Belmont Girls’ returned to the playoffs with a 9-9-1 record and a tournament victory. It’s a team with some impressive results in the year – an away 4-0 victory over 12-win Arlington and capturing the title on Soccer Night In Belmont – which will return a solid defense that will join two of the best young attacking forwards in the Middlesex League.

Belmont started the postseason hosting Brockton in a play-in match, coming away with a dominant 3-1 victory with sophomore Anna Santos scoring the brace. The first of her goals came in the opening half when she directed the ball into the net. The second will be Santos’ easiest in high school as the inexperienced Boxer goalie whiffed on a clearing attempt which dribbled to a surprised Santos, who flicked it into the wide-open net. Finally, Gray scored from the corner kick when the goalie bundled her cross into the net.

Ranked 25th in the 32 MIAA Division 1 field, Belmont’s round of 32 match was at 8th-seeded Franklin. The teams were evenly matched in the first 20 minutes, with Belmont having the first shots on the net. But the Panthers would gradually take control before scoring midway through the half on a shot just out of the reach of Belmont’s ‘keeper Yuval Golani. Belmont’s best chance came from star freshman Danica Zicha who, despite tight marking, hit a shot heading for the low left corner that took a superb parry by Franklin’s goalie to keep Belmont off the scoreboard. The shortest player on the pitch, Franklin’s junior striker Anya Zub, would finish off the Marauders with the hat trick to secure the 4-0 win.

“It was tough. With all our injuries, this was going to be hard to pull off, and we just got beat up by a tougher team. But I am so proud of them, the way they kept being positive,” Cange said of the game.

The injuries may not have allowed the Marauders to reach their true potential, but Cange is optimistic about next season’s team.

“We have many sophomores and juniors that have a lot of talent and energy. I’m just hoping in the next year everyone can come back healthy, and let’s shoot for another great season.”

Senior Capt. Bridget Gray said she always wanted to play on the same team as her two older sisters.

“And being on it was even more than I could have ever dreamed of. All these girls are my best friends in the world. I’m so upset right now because we all just want another practice, another game with each other,” she said as the team left the field for the final time.

“We all just loved spending every minute of every day together, and we’re going to miss it a lot.”

Volleyball

Volleyball is a game that involves sending the ball back and forth over a net. And for Belmont High, Volleyball was a season of moving back and forth over the .500 mark as the Marauders attempted to continue participating in the Division 1 tournament since 2017. Unfortunately, renovation delays made it all the more difficult as the team’s home court at the Wenner Field House was unavailable for games and practices for more than a month. However, the Marauders would finally punch its playoff ticket with clutch victories in the season’s final two games – both at home – to finish the season at 9-8.

Once securing a spot in the tournament, the Marauders would find themselves slouching towards Cape Cop during afternoon rush hour traffic to play a first-round contest against perennial powerhouse Barnstable.

“We weren’t all having an ‘on the game’ against Barnstable, which we would’ve needed to win,” said Head Coach Jen Couture, as Belmont lost in straight sets, 25-19, 25-10.

“But we still put up a decent fight,” said the long-time coach. “In the first set, we were down 2-14 after a tremendous serving run by Barnstable. But we shook it off and came all the way back to 19 which made things pretty exciting,” said Couture.

Cross country

Belmont High Sophomore Jared Rife emerged as the team leader of the Boys’ Cross Country, qualifying for the Division 1 state championship by taking 6th – breaking 16 minutes (15:55.8) on the 5K course – in the Division 1B qualifier, the youngest runner of the top 10 finishers of the race. As a result, Rife is the sole Belmont High harrier at the state championships being held on Nov. 19.

The Boys’ team finished the Middlesex League duel meet season at 4-2 while placing 4th in the League meet. Seniors Ronnie Rubinshtein and Jason Kim were consistent 2-3 scorers, while sophomores Mark Chumack, Ian Hettenbach, and Ben Palmer – each scoring in the Middlesex meet – gained varsity experience for a team that next year has the potential of being a junior-fueled juggernaut.

The Belmont High Girls season finished in 9th in the Middlesex League meet with junior Keira Healey leading the way, followed by two youngsters, 9th graders Alyssa Kresse and Riley Morgan while at the qualifier, juniors Northanna Strautmann and Clara Roth secured points.

The season’s other highlight wasn’t a race or result but the team’s new home course at Rock Meadow Conservation Land. The double figure eight three mile course allows ample viewing opportunities and is an esthetic winner.

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